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Win for Partners Life

Partners Life may have lost out to Sovereign at last year’s Insurance Industry Awards but they’re streets ahead on overall satisfaction, at least according to advisers using the QuoteMonster website.  

Wednesday, February 6th 2013, 9:56AM 26 Comments

by Benn Bathgate

Asked which insurer is doing the most right at the moment, 41.67% of advisers responding to the poll on the quoting and comparison website voted for Partners Life, more than double second-placed Tower at 20.83%.

Asteron came third with 16.67% followed by Sovereign on 12.50%

Partners also came out on top when advisers were asked which insurer offered the best underwriting with 27% of respondents against 23% for Sovereign and 14% for Fidelity Life.

Partners Life managing director Naomi Ballantyne said the results were pleasing and indicative of the reasons the company had managed to achieve substantial market share so quickly.

“It reinforces our view that focusing on product coverage and claims philosophies is what good advisers want from their product providers and it’s nice to know we’ve achieved these results without any kind of control over those advisers,” she said.

Asked which insurer provided the best BDM support, Sovereign ranked joint first with Fidelity Life on 19.32%, followed by Tower (17.05%) and Asteron (14.77%).

QuoteMonster director Conor Sligo said the site had about 1200 users and a minimum of 100 advisers took part in each poll.

Benn Bathgate is a business reporter for ASSET and Good Returns, email story ideas to benn@goodreturns.co.nz

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Comments from our readers

On 7 February 2013 at 9:49 am Bay Broker said:
What about claims? Who ranks as #1? C'mon fellow advisers, it is so much more than just getting business on the books. It is making sure 'our' promise to our clients is being met when they need it most.
On 7 February 2013 at 12:34 pm Vinnie said:
100 advisers surveyed out of the approximate 1500 advisers in the country. Hardly seems a robust representation - just sayin....
On 7 February 2013 at 2:24 pm Interested Techie Observer said:
Remember to always keep in mind who the audience is. This survey was of users of Quote Monster. Sovereign and AMP/AXA (as two examples) are users/promoters of Xplan/Risk Researcher, so you have to assume that very few Sovereign or AMP/AXA aligned advisers use Quote Monster, thus their ratings are lower than probably most people would expect them to be.
On 7 February 2013 at 3:30 pm Ex Sovnet Adviser said:
Gosh, some very unhappy Sovereign advisers here. Gentlemen, take it from me, the grass IS greener on the otherside.
On 8 February 2013 at 8:45 am Janie said:
Here here to Bay Brokers comments above. Its the CLAIMS experience I push when selling not new business on the books for my pocket.
On 8 February 2013 at 10:48 am Amused said:
Sorry. Who is AMP again?
On 8 February 2013 at 5:19 pm broker said:
Anyone had a bad experience of Partners Life not paying claims they should have? I certainly haven't and I've had a few now...
On 10 February 2013 at 9:05 am Ray Lewis said:
Janie, if it is claims experience you push, how did you determine which company to use before any of your clients experienced a claim?
On 11 February 2013 at 8:51 am Raoul said:
Policy wordings determine the client's right to claim benefits, anything else is a gift (which should not be paid because all other policyholders end up paying). If you don't like an insurers claims decision there is an ombudsman.
On 12 February 2013 at 9:08 am Janie said:
My point is that my clients need to feel 100% confident and comfortable that their policy will pay at claim time. Ultimately its the claims experience they are paying for isnt it?
On 12 February 2013 at 2:06 pm Ray Lewis said:
Again I ask; how did you determine which company to use, prior to any clients experiencing a claim?

Surely it's not JUST the claims experience your clients are paying for, it's what's in the wordings that's of more importance. That ultimately decides whether their policy will pay at claim time. And given that only one company to my knowledge has a 'claims experience' clause WRITTEN in their policy document around what many would say is a grey area of conflicting medical information then it seems ironic that you would suggest that you appear not to have 100% confidence in that company but you do in others.
On 12 February 2013 at 3:57 pm Teddy Lee said:
Janie, my question to you is this, what is more important, selling a policy that has a proven great claims experience but a mediocre product offering, or selling a policy that has the best product on the market with unproven claims experience?
On 12 February 2013 at 4:09 pm Amused said:
Janie. You seem to be insinuating that Partners Life can't or won't pay claims. I suggest that you open your eyes please. Like broker above I have had claims for my clients at Partners and they have met/exceeded all my expectations for what insurance is all about - claim time.
On 13 February 2013 at 11:54 am Dirty Harry said:
In the initial stages any company that is pursuing growth wants to "prove" themselves. So far Partner's story shows they are trying really hard, paying claims, delivering service, good products and pricing. Which is fine. Is it sustainable? Late last year they cranked up health premiums, cut upfront commissions and Rangatira pumped in $3.8M.

But Naomi knows what she is doing; this is her 3rd time.

I remain in the camp of watchers. The products aren't that much better; buying ratings by covering things that don't cause claims doesn't impress me - do your own research. The "grey claims thing" may or may not matter - but investigate the reinsurance arrangements. Who really decides whether it's paid? And anyway, is there such a thing as a grey claim?

Look at the financial strength rating.

Look at OnePath and their legacy of aggressive product and pricing and the changes they have also had to make in the last couple of years.

Finally look at the board. Much history has already repeated itself, but at least if Kiwibank buys it the argument about financial strength will be over.
On 14 February 2013 at 7:03 am Vinnie said:
Dirty Harry - "Naomi knows what she is doing: this is her third time".

Interesting comment - will there be a 4th time?

Lets just hypothesize that there might be - what happens then - a whole heap of 'strategic repositioning of clients risk needs"?

That's really great for the needs of kiwis. Really grows the market of insurance for kiwis. Makes sure that we get the percentage of life cover for kiwis from 57% to a number far more acceptable.

Really - do you think?

Just saying....
On 18 February 2013 at 11:34 pm Oracle said:
Interesting argument Vinnie.
If we took away Sovereign, OnePath & Partners Life (all 3 companies Naomi has grown from scratch) do you really think our industry would be the better for it?
On 20 February 2013 at 9:06 am Goldstar said:
Having worked as a tied adviser with AMP for many years,and only in the last 2 years having 'seen the light', I can understand where both sides of this argument are coming from. AMP and Sovereign advisers that are contractually and financially tied into their restrictive product suite need to find some justification for why they can't offer the best product currently available in the market. Without this justification they are effectively out of business. Obviously, a company that has only been in existence for 3 years isn't going to have a demonstrable claims history when compared with those with longer tenure. And if that's all these advisers have to hang their hat on, because the new product is SO superior in every other aspect, then claims history will be the most important aspect. More important than whether the policy wording even provides coverage for a condition. Those advisers will also use xplan's risk researcher analysis tool because it will be heavily biased in favour of their product suite and place the new kid on the block at or near the bottom on product quality. Of course, they will continue to ignore the new kid, as they did when Sovereign launched in the 80's. That is until the day they wake up and find their marketshare has fallen from 40% to 12% (as happened to AMP).
Perhaps a better defense for their business, and for their clients, would be to lobby their insurance companies to improve their product offering and pressure the FMA to outlaw the tied agency?
On 20 February 2013 at 11:38 am Amused said:
An excellent comment Goldstar! Great to have an adviser with your background comment on this subject. Thank you.
On 20 February 2013 at 12:41 pm Rossco said:
Goldstar- Some very good points, but to put AMP and Sovereign in the same bucket is rather naive. As far as, whatever you wont to call it, contractually and financially tied, the relationships between those two companies and advisers is worlds apart.
On 20 February 2013 at 1:39 pm Ron Flood said:
Goldstar & Amused, seriously, do either of you take the time to use independent research?
If so you would see that the core benefits of Sovereign products are rated as highly as Partners. If it is 'bell's and whistles' you want that flesh out a product then maybe advisers need to look elsewhere. Personally I am more interested in the policy wordings and benefits of conditions that most claims arise from.

One researcher rates Sovereign and Partners as equal for the core benefits offered for male trauma (B+) and indemnity IP (A). For own occupation TPD Partners is rated A+ and Sovereign A-. A second researcher rates Sovereign higher for male trauma (94% v 91%) but lower for the IP (90% v 91%).

In summary, any adviser who only puts business with Sovereign, is doing nothing wrong as long as the product recommended is fit for purpose.
With regards having the FMA look into
outlawing tied agencies I would rather they spend time on looking at advisers who transfer a large proportion of their book of business from one company to another and then to another.

I would be very interested in the statistics around how much business was
shifted to another company whilst still being in the early stage of the
commission write back period (I suspect very little).

Disclaimer; These are my personal views. During the year ended Dec 2012 I placed 13% of my new submissions with Sovereign.
On 20 February 2013 at 5:49 pm Rork said:
I think Ron has hit the nail on the head. If you want to constantly offer your clients the best policy in terms of product rating why not pin a tail on your behind and chase that? Because as we all know these are constantly changing. Are you going to head back to your clients every-time a new policy makes it to the top? Doubt it? Surely a companies passback policy is an extremely important consideration along with their ability and track record of paying claims.
On 21 February 2013 at 11:28 am Ray Lewis said:
Using that said independent research Ron puts you at the mercy of one person's interpretation of the merit of a particular wording.

I'm pleased you are interested in the wordings and benefits of conditions that most claims arise from. I'm sure then you'll have an opinion on this;

Take the heart attack definition within a trauma contract. Read both Asteron's which is given the highest possible rating by Strategy and then read Partners Life which is rated 97 points in arrears of Asteron's. Now which definition is actually better for the client?

Or for the example you are using; compare Sovereign's and Partners' heart attack definitions which basically are identical in rating points with Strategy. Which wording would you prefer your clients to have?

As for you saying those who write with Sovereign are not doing anything wrong, that is true. But surely we as advisers shouldn't have the bar set at whether we are doing anything wrong, it should be set at whether we are doing the very best for our clients. There is a big difference!!
On 21 February 2013 at 6:15 pm Ron Flood said:
Ray. I mentioned independent research as this was attacked in the posting by amused. Your example regarding the Asteron v Partners wording of heart attack is now old news as I believe Partners have just announced an improved definition. Surely if it was as good as you say they would have no reason to enhance it. Perhaps the 97 points will be picked up when next rated.

If you and many others believe that doing the very best for our client's requires us to change their provider every time an extra benefit or better policy wording is added by a competitor then I am afraid that our industry is well and truly stuffed.
On 21 February 2013 at 11:28 pm Amused said:
As Ray rightly says above we should all be doing the very best for our clients. If that necessitates us switching them to another insurer (because their current provider has not kept pace with the market) then the hassle for both us and the client is more than offset by the new benefits secured.

Obviously if the client in question has suffered a change in their health etc. since the original policy was first issued then their adviser shouldn’t look to change insurer as he or she may end up disadvantaging their client with an exclusion or loading applied to the new policy. This is common sense though and is always the first thing for any adviser to consider whenever changing a client’s insurer.

The underlying issue at hand (and some seem unable to grasp this) is that some of the life insurers in the market are VERY slow to pass on product enhancements to their policy holders and do so often only once a competitor “forces” them to.

Regardless of the clear bias that some on this forum hold against Partners Life even these individuals must surely appreciate that since Partners arrival existing policy holders at Sovereign etc. are now getting improved features and benefits added to their policies (i.e. Trauma enhancements) that they would in all likelihood NOT have received if Partners hadn’t emerged on the scene.
On 22 February 2013 at 7:38 am Ron Flood said:
Ray, I agree that established companies have been more pro-active in passing back improved benefits since the arrival of Partners. In an interview with Asset Magazine I commented that I thought it was good for the industry that a new player, Partners Life, had entered the marketplace for that reason.
The fact that companies are enhancing policyholders benefits retrospectively, even if slower than desired, is a good reason to retain their existing cover.
If it is good enough for an adviser to wait until a policy is out of, or nearly out of, the period of responsibility for commission claw back before replacing cover, it is good enough for them to wait until the existing company 'catches up' with an upgrade. Adviser's can't have it both ways and then call it "acting in the best interests of your client"
One thing that seems to be lost in this argument is that many of the new benefits or enhancements are added free. This usually means the chance of paying extra claims as a result is minimal. When an enhancement has to be underwritten, and an extra premium charged, it is a good indicator that the enhancement is going to result in a higher incidence of claims.

Disclaimer: These are my personal views.
On 22 February 2013 at 9:43 am Andrew Logan said:
Goldstar, XPLAN's Risk Researcher Module is the only 100% Independently owned Insurance Research tool in NZ with an internationaly recognised Quality Rating (ISO9001)supporting its methodology, so I find your comment about it being biased towards any 1 supplier quite misleading.

Secondly the tool has been designed to be client centric, integrated into the advice process so the results will vary depending on the clients specific requirements, so there is no "best product" for everyone.

Used correctly, Insurance Research is simply a tool that affords advisers a centralised view and quick analysis of a multitude of policies in the market without having to read through every policy document, every benefit and determining the strengths and weaknesses of each to support recommendations for each client. It is designed to support your advice process, not make decisions for you.

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